The 24g Swedish marketing success

October 11, 2009

As much as I love how IKEA makes me feel about marketing and how Absolut makes me feel about myself, there’s one Swedish success story that’s probably even more amazing. The story of snus.

A little bit of background: The oral use of tobacco is an age old tradition. It was widely done in America, long before Europeans sailed to its shores. It then spread to all corners of the known world thanks to European imperialism. We all know snus (or more precisely, chewing tobacco) from American popular culture with its cowboys, rednecks and baseball players.

Sweden wasn’t introduced to tobacco until the 17th century. But in the last 150 years they have fell in love with their snus. Today some 20 % of Swedish adults use snus. 90 % of them men, 10 % women.

Here’s a question: how did the Swedes, who are known for their classy looks and high level of sophistication , adopt a habit that was formerly associated with all things vulgar?

To illustrate the change: how did they manage to go from this…

Chewing tobacco

To this:

Snus

I see that from a marketing point-of-view the success of snus is based on three things:

  1. Product development. Of all the constant developments of the product, probably the biggest innovation that helped the wide adoption was the portion packaging, introduced in 1973. The teabag-resembling 1g portions made it far less messy than the regular kind of loose snus. Other great innovations include the fermentation process (which makes snus far less unhealthy than its American counterpart) and the white, dry portion (which makes it even less messy).
  2. Segmentation. Snus is available for many different target groups, be it beginners, active users, heavy users, girls, those who seek good value for money, those who seek luxury or those who want to quit the habit.
  3. Branding. There is a wide, ever-expanding array of different brands, each with their own qualities, personalities and fans. The vast amount of big brands is even more amazing when you consider the fact that one company (Swedish Match) has a monopoly-like market share (about 97 %).

The only downside of the marketing success is that it doesn’t scale. Snus is banned in many countries, so it isn’t likely to become the next remarkable global story to follow IKEA and the like. One can only wonder the role of cigarette companies’ lobbyists, since researches show snus to be “dramatically less dangerous than smoking”…

So, the Catch of all of this? (pun intended.)

Looking 10 or 20 years from now, what product could be transformed inside-out and upside-down to reach an unimaginable market?

What could be your snus?

[Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snus , http://www.swedishmatch.com , http://www.snusexpress.com/ , http://www.swedish-snus.com/ ; Pictures: 1) http://www.the-forum.com/ephemera/TOBACCO.HTM 2) http://mcns.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html 3) http://www.swedishmatch.com 4) http://www.flickr.com/photos/uploaded/3315456159/ ]

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